ENG 361 Course Work Audit

Course Work Audit: Digital Literacy Spring 2015

Website address for your blog: lenzlearning.wordpress.com

Number of blog posts you have published this semester: 32

Twitter user name/handle: brit_lenz

Number of tweets you have published this semester: 272

Number of Daily Creates you have posted: 32

My stats look pathetic but I hope everyone else has comparable numbers. I did all of the assignments. This was a great class and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a better handle on technological resources essential to life today (and especially education).


Blog Analysis for ENG 361

Dr. Ellington’s classes always amaze me. The introduction of technological sources within the comfort zone of an educational setting makes them applicable to a future career.  I tried to begin each week thinking, “How can I apply this to my future classroom?” As I reread my blog posts, I have to pick my first posting as my favorite. I was very candid and honest. It was well received by my classmates. I had seven people comment on it saying that they were in the same situation; a non-traditional student going back for another endorsement or finishing a prolonged degree. I remember writing that first blog and I was scared of looking like a seven year failure, the “old” student, and not having much in common with the other 18-20 year olds taking this course. I was relieve to have the support from fellow classmates.

As I read through the majority of my posts I found a resounding theme of personalization. I tried to put a personal spin on the topics each week because I know that I like to read blogs that give more than just facts. The personal application of new information to a future classroom brought the modules full circle. By describing how each aspect could apply to a classroom demonstrated understanding of the implementation required through each lesson.

After analyzing my posts I feel like my first few weeks are better than my last. I know that adding a block B class at midterms really added to my workload and it affected my posts. My time got divided again and it negatively affected my creativity in writing my blogs. It makes me upset when rereading them. I don’t think they are bad, I just think my sense of humor went out the window because I was focused on the task at hand more than putting my personality into the second half of my posts. The personal application is visible as well as the analysis of the lesson but my personal humor that makes blogs enjoyable to read isn’t present.

In the second week we discussed what digital literacy means. I had to laugh when I looked back at my blog because I honestly had to Wikipedia the term “digital literacy”. After 16 weeks of diving deeper into the term I feel comfortable with the meaning, application, and feel that I have a basis of knowledge to be able to apply it to my life as well as teach the importance of it to others.

Each week I was encouraged to find ways to let students be creative in the classroom. I learned that there needs to be structure but instead of having only one right answer, students need to be able to try possibilities. One theme that I really grasped onto this semester was the term “hacking” and it began with Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk. However, I realized that hacking is not just a term for hijacking someone’s computer and imputing viruses. It is a way of simplifying portions of life. Creativity is the basis of hacking and I tried to embrace this in my course work and in my independent learning project.

As I read through just the comments on each of my blogs I noticed that everyone was encouraging or had constructive criticism with suggestions. I didn’t have any classmate disregard my blogs. The comments were understanding in nature. It helps when we are all going through this together but each person has a unique situation and somehow we all united and became a support system for each other.

I had two obstacles this semester. The first was the establishment of a personal learning network. I struggled with this on Twitter because I didn’t feel like I had the knowledge to contribute to a learning network. I have gained some knowledge and reliable resources by keeping up with the resources they were sharing. However, in my blogs I explained that I was very hesitant in exploring and contributing to a PLN. The comments I received emulated understanding and encouragement by essentially saying, “Just do it. You need to have confidence in your knowledge.” One comment that I really liked was from Angie Temple on March 10, 2015 that said, “I hope you are finding this course to be a source of encouragement and support as you begin to dive in the social media pond. I am not an expert but I hope I will be able to become extremely fluent in social media networking. I would challenge you to think of yourself as a winner and as someone who has much to offer companies big and small.” This encouragement assisted in my pursuit of a stronger PLN.

The second obstacle that I overcame was the exposure to social media and numerous online resources. In the beginning I was resistant to Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. and creating accounts for each one of these resources. I was willing to use them but not to contribute. I like the animosity of not having my name all over the internet but I soon realized that I am in charge of my exposure on the internet. I have a choice whether to have a positive or negative footprint. These thoughts were revisited in my blog on March 17 titled, “Digital Citizenship: The Big Picture” where George Couros “140 Characters of Kindness” and TED Talk titled, “Your Online Life, Permanent as a Tattoo” explained how we are in charge of what represents our name online. We need to be responsible while using online resources; it not only affects us but others who come into contact with what we have posted.

As the semester progressed I noticed that I began to gain confidence in what I was learning through multiple resources. There were reoccurring themes each week that I felt began to become more refined; especially in the final weeks. My favorite week was Module 11 that highlighted Paul Miller’s TED Talk titled “Quitting the Internet for One Year” and Zen Habit’s “Simplify the Internet” article. I feel that a balance is required in education today. Technology must be embraced and utilized but it cannot overwhelm every aspect of teaching. This idea is also true for our personal lives. We need to find the balance of creating lasting relationships, friendships and professional contacts; both face-to-face and online.

A final theme to this semester was passion. I’ve learned that I need to find my passion as a teacher, capitalize on those strengths, work to increase your confidence in areas that I’m not as strong, and inspire others. Each week I was astounded to see the passion in education. Twitter was a great avenue to be connected to successful educators with unimaginable knowledge and experience. I spent hours reading tweets, blogs, and articles associated with education, innovation, and current trends. A future teacher can’t help but leave this semester completely pumped up about education and the possible impact they will have in their future classroom. An excerpt from my blog say, “In the article “25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom” by Saga Briggs I had four major takeaways. (1) Indulge your own passions when you are outside of the classroom. It’s important to take time for yourself so that passion can be displayed to the students, (2) Let students share their passions, (3) Value all passions equally, (4) Weave standards into passion-based learning.” Finding the passion and sources of innovating learning were at the forefront of resounding themes this semester.

Unlearning & Innovation: To Sum It All Up

Then:Inside My ClassroomPhoto CC- Marie (knittymarie)



Photo CC- GotCredit

Richardson’s The Steep “Unlearning Curve” 

“In a world where literally any place can be a classroom, we have to unlearn the comforts of four walls that we’ve become accustomed to” (Richardson, 2007, para 1). The idea of teaching in a classroom is what every future teacher envisions, I assume. I picture 20 eager-to-learn children awaiting my arrival in a classroom decorated with the alphabet, learning walls, and bright colors. Well, snap back to reality and that isn’t the iconic classroom anymore. In order to effectively teach children today teachers need to become comfortable with the resources available through multiple technological sources. This semester has proven that trying innovative sources for learning avenues can be successful. A balance of technology and demonstrative classroom work must be found in order to keep the attention of students. Today the attention span of a person is eight seconds, on the average (I’ve heard that a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds…just food for thought there). That statistic proves that teachers need to be on their toes when teaching; the old ways are out & it’s time to revamp the classroom to embrace the easily-accessible resources that are valuable to education.

I was in elementary school years ago and my elementary experience is much different than that of today. I must “unlearn” the ways I was taught and conform to the new age. One tip that I need to actively work on is Richardson’s idea: “We need to unlearn the idea that every student needs to learn the same content when really what they need to learn is how to self-direct their own learning.” Another one is: “We need to unlearn the practice that teaches all students at the same pace. Is it any wonder why so many of our students love to play online games where they move forward at their own pace?” I’ve thought for years that every student need their own IEP; by this I mean that no two students are the same and having an individual learning program for each would be beneficial for the student’s best interest. However, that is not possible when classrooms have 20 or more students. In rural, small classrooms this may be an option, but in most cases it’s not possible. Teaching students how to take responsibility for their learning by giving them options, using their imagination, and creativity is essential to the world today.


Photo CC- Celestine Chua

Couros’ The Mindset of an Innovator

Thinking with innovation on the mind has been the focus of this semester. New technology resources have been introduced and we have been able to experiment with them in a controlled, purposeful atmosphere. This semester I have kept Couros’ statement in mind that says, “I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”. With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point” (Couros, para. 5). As I worked on each assignment I thought of how the content could be applied to a classroom; especially an elementary classroom in my case. Education is intimidating. Sometimes I get scared thinking about what I want to accomplish in a classroom—I want to use technology, introduce my students to new resources, have interesting activities, meet standards, get the best test scores, try new things without failing, etc. Frankly, that’s a fall, scary order to fill. But the words of Couros comes back with reaffirmation that teachers need to be confident, saying, “I will utilize the tools that are available today and I will continue to search for new and better ways to continuously grow, develop, and share my thinking, while creating and connecting my learning” (para. 7). Confidence in the classroom is built through drawing on strengths, developing those skills, and improving on areas that are not as strong. I cannot limit myself to a comfort zone; if I don’t push forward and try new ideas then how can I except that from students? Innovation needs to be the focus of a 21st century classroom.

Teachers maybe don’t realize how important they are to the puzzle pieces of a student’s educational journey. The skills gained through one year in an innovative teacher’s classroom could benefit them for the rest of their years in the public school system. Lastly, a teacher can’t ever have a “final draft” of a teaching format. It is a process, not a rubric that fits each classroom of students uniformly. This semester I learned just how important a teacher is to students’ success.

Independent Project Final Thoughts

Wrap Up of Independent Project:

Here are just a few snap-shots of my Independent Project Journey:

IMG_7040IMG_8878IMG_2861 (1)IMG_8440IMG_5604IMG_7709IMG_3901IMG_6614IMG_0092IMG_0964

(This is the last project I finished…with straight sewing line! Yeah, sorry, I’m a little excited about that!)

p.s.– These pictures doesn’t even do the past 14 weeks justice of what I’ve done and learned.

What have you learned about yourself?

Well, I’ve learned that I had pretty ambitious goals starting the independent project. Soon, though, I realized that life was happening and my independent project was becoming daunting work. So only weeks into my project I had to put it on hold to figure out the organization of my life so I could enjoy the project that I CHOSE to do. Seriously…I chose this and it was already becoming work.

I legitimately wanted to learn to sew so I took a few weeks to organize meal planning, a few life-saving life hacks to free up some time to spend sewing. I didn’t want to be rushed. So after only a few weeks of trying to get organized I went out and bought some nice fabric and got back on the sewing train!

Last week I finished a baby blanket for a friend and it had straight lines. Straight lines, yep, you read that correctly! In my world that’s a big feat!

So ultimately I learned that in order to undertake a new hobby a person needs to organize their time so it doesn’t become one more thing that needs to be checked on the list. And also, I’m one of those people that put everyone else’s needs before mine and this gave me a little “me” time to practice sewing and making projects for others.

How easy was it to motivate yourself throughout the semester to work on your project?

Once I got organized, meals planned, house cleaned, etc. I was able to enjoy my project. I would take my daughter over to her grandma’s and they would have a play date so I could focus solely on my project at hand. It was peaceful, not having to worry about a toddler and stick pins and scissors and needles. (That is stressful in itself!)

What was the best part of the project for you?

For me, it was the growth in other areas of my life to organize my time to devote to this project. I know sewing is easy for some but it took some time for me to unwind and focus on my fine motor skills and perfectionism to make a project that was worth of being proud. So when it came to the time when I had meals planned, a house full of groceries, clean floors, and a happy hubby and baby it was game on for sewing!

Piktochart– New Go-To

Untitled Infographic

Tah-Dah! My creation! (See, I have been busy on my Independent Learning Project! And I’m actually getting the hang of sewing…after 12 weeks and repeated uneven lines.)

I used Piktochart & loved it! I just watched the tutorial and went for it. I didn’t watch any YouTube videos. It’s a very user friendly program. I highly recommend using it.

So for my piktograph I explained how to sew a minky blanket (since that is my independent learning project topic). I chose to use a template because time and creativity are not on my side today. The template was very easy to interchange my ideas with what was already there.

Like all new programs, getting used to how it works takes a little bit of trial and error but like I said, watching the tutorial was helpful. Also, I’m not so tech savvy but I know my way around & it is pretty user friendly. And for being a free service there were gobs of options for graphics, photos, fonts, etc. However, I used my own pictures since I wanted to depict how to sew a minky blanket.

A tool like Piktochart would be useful in the classroom setting. It would be good for those who were above a Microsoft Office tool and wanted to explore with something different. I use Publisher often for work and this was an option that I will use for my professional use. I also think that students would benefit because the online options are always better than standard computer options.

Just because I chose this one doesn’t mean that I wasn’t extremely intrigued by the comic strip options. I clicked around on those too but I chose to complete the assignment with this option. I looked at ToonDoo and I’ve seen the BitStrips on Facebook. They look fun and interactive. I really think students would like doing the comic strips in a classroom setting.

I fully believe in the value of incorporating these online options into the classroom environment. I believe that the classroom provides a safe environment and constructive purpose for students to use creative outlets like those provided on Comic Strip Tools and Online Creation Tools.

In summary, I highly recommend Piktochart for anyone wanting to do a poster, graph, or visual representation. It has a lot of options on the free version and the download process is so easy! I usually stress about that part but it was piece of cake.

Podcasts & Digital Storytelling

The best description of digital storytelling is this, “Quite simply, digital storytelling is the act of using computer-based tools (desktops, laptops, tablets, cameras. and even smartphones) to tell a story. Used in the classroom, it is a lens that teachers and students can use to master the craft of storytelling and argumentative analysis. Digital storytelling might incorporate anything from storyboarding to script writing, revision, production and further editing. From a writing perspective, digital storytelling will teach students how to navigate the writing and creative process, including brainstorming, constructing unique voices, narrating, and perhaps most importantly, structuring arguments in a compelling and logical manner. From a broader teaching perspective, the amount of work required for a digital project often necessitates partnership with another student, which will require teamwork, listening skills, organizational skills and time management skills to stay on top of production deadlines” (Levy, 2014). I can see how beneficial podcasts would be to a classroom. Today technology controls lives and incorporating podcasts into curriculum not only hits the standards required but is another avenue for technology in the classroom. It’s a form of intriguing interaction with technology for the students that is based on an educational foundation.

I never realized how many lesson plan ideas were out there and accessible in a podcast and digital storytelling format. The new ideas from Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling by Leah Levy were dream scenes where students write a narrative essay and draw digital pictures to animate and put it all together and historical slide shows. I knew about the personal narratives, how to guides, and book trailers but giving book work the ol’ digital spin would be a good idea to gain interest from the students on difficult topics.

I may sound illiterate to technology here but I haven’t ever heard a podcast before this week; I mean I’ve heard of them I just haven’t ever sat down and listened to them. Like I’ve said before I honestly do my homework, work, and some Facebooking and call it quits for my online use. But taking time this week to listen to some was enlightening. My favorite was Stress and Education by Maxine Tan (2013). She discussed the differences between eastern and western education. It was interesting to listen to how she was educated in Singapore compared to the United States. It kind of made me want to send my child to Singapore for school. You can check her podcast out here.